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Oregon Cabaret Theatre opens '9 to 5: The Musical'

When office co-workers Judy Bernly, Violet Newstead and Doralee Rhodes become entirely exasperated with their boss — the "sexist, egomaniacal, lying and hypocritical bigot" Franklin Hart — they hatch a scheme to turn the tables on him and run the company themselves. What ensues is a story filled with hilarity, friendship, revenge and even a little romance.

Based on the '80s hit film of the same name, "9 to 5: The Musical" maintains the lyrics and music written by Dolly Parton. Book is by Patricia Resnick, based on the 20th Century Fox screenplay by Resnick and Colin Higgins. The musical premiered in Los Angeles in September 2008, and opened on Broadway in April 2009.

"It's a colorful, fun and vibrant musical comedy," says director and choreographer Michael Jenkinson. "This production has an extensive element of choreography. It was written for 30 people, but I think we've succeeded in getting the energy of that many on stage with only 10."

"9 to 5: The Musical" previews Thursday, April 28, opens Friday, April 29, and runs through July 3 at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, First and Hargadine streets, Ashland. Curtain is at 8 p.m. for evening shows and 1 p.m. for Saturday and Sunday matinees. The theater is dark on Tuesdays. Wednesday night shows begin June 8. Tickets are $25 for the April 28 preview, $39 for all other shows, or $25 for bistro seating.

Tickets, information and reservations are available at www.oregoncabaret.com or by calling 541-488-2902. Dinner reservations begin at 6:30 p.m. for evening shows; brunch begins at 11:30 a.m. for 1 p.m. matinees. Appetizers, beverages and desserts do not require reservations.

"To my knowledge, this is the biggest contemporary musical done by OCT," Jenkinson says. The director's ties to OCT go back to his work with the theater's former artistic director Jim Giancarlo. Jenkinson was a cast member in "Tis the Season" in 2000 and "Route 66" in 2001, and he directed "The Daly News" in 2012.

An artistic associate for Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, Calif., Jenkinson met OCT co-owner and artistic director Valerie Rachelle when she worked at PCPA as a casting director.

"Val and I have collaborated on many creative projects," Jenkinson says. The longtime colleagues worked together for the first time at OCT for its 2015 production of "Cabaret."

"As I look at '9 to 5', underneath all of the fun, frivolity and silliness of the story, there's another important story about three women fighting for equality in the workplace and sexual identity," Jenkinson says. "While there are certainly some references that throw us back to 1979 and show us how we've progressed, there are still so many situations like it in our daily lives. Not just for women, but also for gender equality. The story is about people — these three women — who are fighting for positive change, self-empowerment and better opportunities."

OCT's "9 to 5: The Musical" stars Galloway Stevens as Hart, Alyssa Birrer as Rhodes, Katie Worley Beck as Bernly and Suzy Newman at Newstead.

"My experience with the show since its Broadway production is that it has fallen plague to becoming a commentary on itself, meaning that it tries to imitate the characters as opposed to letting them evolve," Jenkinson says. "So my approach is to keep the story first. Before we go for the humor, we go for the heart of the piece — which is keeping the connection to the struggles, joys, successes and failures of the characters — primarily the three women."

The show also pays tribute to the time period of the late '70s and early '80s, Jenkinson says. Costume designer Kerri Lea Robbins has created clothing styles for the show that are authentic.

"We're trying to approach the piece from a standpoint of authenticity first," he says. "On top of that, as long as we come from truth, there's a ton of fantastic comedy. There's even room for change in Hart's character. I can say he gets his comeuppance, and we can only hope that he is humbled."

Set design is by Jason Bolen, sound is by resident designer Tom Freeman, and lighting design is by Chris Sackett.

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Doralee Rhodes (Alyssa Birrer) and coworkers Judy Bernly and Violet Newstead hatch a scheme to turn the tables on their sexist, egotistical and lying boss Franklin Hart (Galloway Stevens) in Oregon Cabaret Theatre's production of '9 to 5: The Musical,' opening April 29. Photo by Chistopher Briscoe